Paraguay is a landlocked country in Central South America. It gained its independence from almost 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in 1811. This country that has a total area of 406,752 sq. km is home to 7,191,685 (July 2020 est.) citizens. The official languages are Spanish and Guarani, and almost half of the population are bilingual.
1. It is often referred to as the “Heart of South America”
This small country situated in the center of South America is referred to as Corazón de Sudamérica or the Heart of South America. It is completely surrounded by Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. An interesting fact about Paraguay is that it shares a single border called, “The Triple Frontier,” with Argentina and Brazil in the east.
2. Paraguay was colonized by the Spaniards for almost three centuries
The Spanish first came to Paraguay in 1524 and found it inhabited by the indigenous Guarani people. By 1537, they founded the settlement of Asuncion. Lacking in gold and other mineral deposits that the Spanish were looking for, the country became unimportant to Spain and was able to escape the slavery and suffering of what other colonized nations experienced. Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811 after almost three hundred years.
3. It has a large navy despite being a landlocked country
Paraguay is surrounded by land and has no coastline or maritime claims. However, being a landlocked country did not stop them from having a large navy that also includes naval aviation and marine corps as part of their operations. Their navy is crucial to patrolling and protecting its border and the whole river system.
4. The Paraguay River divides the country in two regions
This river is the fifth largest in South America and runs through Paraguay and its neighboring countries. As it flows from north to south, it divides the country in two regions. The western region or Gran Chaco covers 60 percent of land territory, but only 2 percent of the population is living there. The eastern region or the Paraneña is where majority of the citizens reside.
5. The Itaipu Dam is one of the seven wonders of the modern world
The Parana River, which forms a natural border between Paraguay and Brazil, is where the Itaipu Dam is situated. The hydroelectric dam is one of the largest generators of renewable energy in the world with a generation capacity of 14GW, an interesting fact about Paraguay. It is owned by the two governments and supplies almost a hundred percent of Paraguay’s energy consumption.
6. Two Jesuit mission ruins in Paraguay were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993
There are seven Jesuit missions founded in Paraguay. The settlement established by the Jesuits for the indigenous people improved their way of living and helped them become self-sufficient. Around 100,000 to 140,000 Guaranis were said to be sheltered or housed in the missions, and they were protected from slavery and forced labor during the Spanish colonial rule. The La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná is the biggest and is 10 km away from Jesús de Tavarangue, and both were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993.
7. Paraguay has the biggest rodent in the world, the Capybara
A fun fact about Paraguay is that it has the the Capybara, which is a semi-aquatic mammal that basically looks like a giant or overgrown guinea pig. It has teeth that continuously grow and are worn down when grazing on grass and aquatic plants. Capybaras also eat their feces which help their digestion. This rodent is usually 4.6 feet long, up to 2 feet high, and weighs around 77 to 143 pounds, making it the biggest rodent in the world.
8. The Triple Alliance War nearly wiped out Paraguay
In December of 1864, the dictator Francisco Solano Lopez took his country to war against Brazil, and then three months later, waged war against Argentina. Uruguay allied with the two, thus forming the Triple Alliance. It was said that President Lopez went to war over border disputes and territorial expansion especially in the Rio de la Plata region. The war lasted for six years and the Triple Alliance won. Around two-thirds of Paraguay’s population died including 90 percent of its men. They also lost part of their territory.
9. Paraguayans clap their hands instead of using the doorbell
One interesting fact in Paraguay is that most of their homes do not have doorbells. Even if the house has a fence and gate, there would be no doorbell to call the attention of those inside. Knocking at the door is also not something that guests are supposed to do. What Paraguayans do is clap their hands to announce their arrival.
10. Its flag is the only one that has a different emblem on each side
The national flag of Paraguay has three equal horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. At the center of the middle white band is an emblem that bears the national coat of arms. On the reverse side of the flag, there is an emblem with the circular seal of the treasury on it. Paraguay is the only country that has a national flag with different emblems on both sides.
11. Paraguay made it to the Guinness Book of World Records
In October of 2013, they made a successful attempt to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records by having the largest harp ensemble, an interesting fact about Paraguay. It was held at a festival in Asuncion, the country’s capital. With 420 participants, aged 8 to 70, the ensemble played Paraguayan polka and song without gaps, and it lasted a little over six minutes.
12. American President Rutherford B. Hayes is a national hero in Paraguay
After the War of the Triple Alliance in 1870, there was a dispute between Paraguay and Argentina over Gran Chaco, which comprised 60 percent of Paraguay’s territory. The two countries wanted the U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, a neutral third party, to settle the matter. Because Hayes decided in favor of Paraguay in 1878, he became their national hero.
As a landlocked country and the heart of South America, the Republic of Paraguay remained strong after defending its sovereignty and territory. Their history as a nation certainly was not an easy one. However, they are able to retain their national identity through all the hardships and suffering.
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